I’m not going to pretend – the first time I tried to pitch a story to a journalist it was horrible. I sat looking at the phone for what felt like forever before I summoned up the guts to actually dial the number.
Imagine a time before email – yes, this was that time. And, yes, I’m that old.
Imagine a time when press releases were printed off and stuffed into envelopes and when the phone was the only other option for getting through to a journalist.
I was in my first job – it was a one year work placement as part of my business degree. The role was as a marketing assistant at Windsor Leisure Pool in the UK and I came to it at the age of 20 years with no experience of PR but lots of enthusiasm.
My chance to shine
Anyhow, the long and the short of it was that the Pool was going to be involved in helping to run the first Windsor Triathlon. One of the Triathlon organisers gave me the telephone number for the regional BBC sports correspondent – the chap who always popped up with the sports round up on the regional news show.
So, sitting in my cubby hole I spent some time rehearsing what I was going to say and going through all the possible questions he might have. I fixed a grin on my face, took a deep breath and dialled. As soon as he answered the phone I launched into my pitch.
And, what happened? He shouted at me, called me all sorts of things. He was incredibly rude because I had telephoned at the precise moment that the Derby (that well known horse race) was in full flow and he was in the middle of watching it.
Yikes! I think I was shaking from head to toe. And, yes, I cried. And, he seemed since a nice chap on the television. But, I had made a classic blunder and interrupted him when he was under pressure and needed to focus intently on the job at hand. Ho hum…
PR Lessons the Hard Way
It was a big lesson for me – in fact I think there were two lessons:
- I was pitching from my perspective and not putting myself in his shoes. Think about it – we tend to just think about pushing our news, information and messages out there instead of seeing it from the other perspective. Ever get a call from someone who launches in before giving you a chance to say two words? It’s frustrating, rude and exhausting too.
- And if I’d been smart I’d have established contact and checked out any good or bad times to call and maybe arranged a time to call that would have been convenient.
I think that in hindsight I would have done lots of things differently, including opening up the conversation by asking if it was a good time to chat. A simple ‘no’ would have got me off the phone without the earth shattering ear bashing.
Permission PR is a very useful technique to gauge whether it’s a good time to speak to a journalist.
Of course, times have changed now too and other methods of communication such as email and social media also have an important role to play. But asking a journalist straight out if it’s a good time to speak can save you lots of hassle as well as disappointment. To me that makes a lot of sense.
This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: My First Pitch To A Journalist – And Why I Cried
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